Monday, September 09, 2019

What does it take to become a successful entrepreneur?

The most successful start-up I ever worked for was founded by a guy who was brought up in a village in the Indian Himalayas.

Jay founded the Cyber Security Software company Zscaler, that I worked in Marketing for. He founded it in 2008 and it is now valued at $19 Billion on the NASDAQ.

His house didn’t even have running water. His family was clearly not wealthy. Read about Zscaler, founded by Jay Chaudhry, here.

Jay Chaudry, the CEO of Zscaler, grew up 'dirt' poor, in a village in the Indian Himalayas.



The second most successful startup I worked for was also founded by Indian immigrants to the USA, too. You can read about Visual IQ here.

Most startup founders I’ve worked for, have genius of varying degrees, and an aspect of their personality that psychologists would define as ‘Hypomania’.

Harvard medical school defines Hypomania as 'a mood state or energy level that is elevated above normal, but not so extreme as to cause impairment'. The incidence of hypomanic personality is much higher than the average in immigrants and entrepreneurs (and those living in the USA).

I had a lot of fun working for another founder in the US, again called Jay, who had been a child prodigy. He completed a triple major degree at Carnegie Mellon in Computer Sciences, Russian and Mathematics at 16 years old. 

He went on to become the USA's youngest MBA at eighteen and youngest management consultant, at Bain & co, again at just 18 years old. 

Jay once told me that Carnegie Mellon had told him that at sixteen years of age, he was too young to pursue an MBA at their University. 

He then managed to get an offer for a scholarship and stipend to take a PhD in Finance at Wharton. He threatened Carnegie Mellon that he would pursue his studies at Wharton if he was not accepted into their MBA program. 

That's how he got Carnegie Mellon's MBA program at such a ridiculously young age. I have no doubt whatsoever that Jay Kemp-Smith demonstrated a hypomanic personality.

I became Jay's Vice President of Sales and Marketing and right-hand man at LMTech. It was fun. And it was torture. I made a lot of money. But it nearly killed me! Jay was 'always-on'.

“Following your dreams is dangerous,” a 31-year-old woman who runs in social entrepreneurship circles in New York, and asked not to be named, told Quartz. “This whole bulk of the population is being seduced into thinking that they can just go out and pursue their dream anytime, but it’s not true.” 

But the truth is that founding a company is typically not a purely rational act. A Founder has to have outsized confidence and vision in themselves to put his or her plan into place. This is not the act of a 'normal' person.

These are the characteristics I've seen in most of the entrepreneurs I've worked for. You might want to call it genetics, personality or something else entirely. 
  1. He (or She) is flooded with ideas.
  2. He is driven, restless, and unable to keep still.
  3. He channels his energy into the achievement of wildly grand ambitions.
  4. He often works on little sleep.
  5. He feels brilliant, unique, chosen, perhaps even destined to change the world.
  6. He becomes easily irritated by minor obstacles.
  7. He is a risk-taker.
Does this sound like an entrepreneur or founder that you know? 

Go to my website.

Please check out a great blog I discovered called Feedspot, founded by Anuj Agarwal. It's my favourite tech/business blog right now. 

I'm excited to say that Feedspot has chosen my blog to be on their list of top 200 tech blogs. I'm honoured and humbled - thank you! Here's their list






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